Puzzle games tend to do my head in more than I like to admit. I’m a smart enough fella, but when a game makes me feel like a complete idiot, I tend to just put it down and forget about it. Toby: The Secret Mine almost had its way with me. Almost.
Toby: The Secret Mine is a puzzle/platformer that sees you playing as the titular hero, Toby, who looks like a miniature Batman who couldn’t afford a cape or gym membership. He’s a nice enough little dude and over the course of the game I’d come to really like the little scrapper. It wasn’t always a pleasant journey, mind you.
The game starts off in a bizarre fashion. You don’t get a menu or a loading screen. You don’t even get to tinker with any options before you’re given control of little Toby. After a couple of short introduction levels, you hit the main splash screen mid-run, then you just carry on. Very unusual? Yes. Welcome change? Maybe.
You’ll soon discover Toby’s motivation for running left-to-right: monsters. More specifically, they look like bigger versions of our little hero, except for the menacing red eyes and a taste for Toby’s mates. Yes, this monster is forever running away with Toby’s friends, and that’s why our little dude runs across the screen. He’s a hero, basically, and he wants to save his friends. Though why this big, menacing monster runs away from Toby rather than eating him alive is a mystery to me…
It’s not as easy as just running after the monster, though, because that would be too easy. Duh. Hence the many puzzles and platforming sections that’ll tease your brain and test your thumb skills. The platforming works really well thanks to the very responsive controls. Only on a few occasions did I blame the game for Toby’s demise, even if it was my fault really. The platforming itself is something of a puzzle, too, so expect to die as you experiment with the best way to get from A to B.
The real challenges come in the form of the game’s puzzles. I’m a smart fella, yet I still found myself perplexed during an early brain teaser. I was sat there for a good 20 minutes before it finally clicked. It’s these moments in games that I cherish – the moments that make me feel like a true genius, even if it took 20 minutes of head scratching to get there.
Toby: The Secret Mine is full of physics puzzles that’ll see you pushing, jumping, hitting levers, hitting yourself, hitting the TV, and lots more. Thankfully the game looks pretty nice, so when you’re stuck on a particular puzzle, you’ve at least got the artwork to appreciate, though I seriously doubt anyone would actually get stuck on a puzzle and then decide to just walk around the level to admire the craftsmanship…
Actually, it wouldn’t be the worst idea if you were to spend a little time peeking into the levels a little closer. Some puzzles will use the game’s simplistic colour palette to hide away the secrets and solutions. So pay attention to everything, basically.
Toby: The Secret Mine has been compared to other indie platformers of recent years, most notably Limbo. Sure, they share a few similarities, but I think Toby does enough to stand on its own feet. It looks really nice and clean – something of a rarity among indie games that all opt for the “retro” pixel-art graphics – and plays very nicely, too. It’s dark, atmospheric, and it did just enough to keep me interested in chasing the monster every time I saw him. The story isn’t much to behold, unfortunately, but they rarely are with such games; it’s all about the gameplay, and that’s something that Toby: The Secret Mine gets absolutely right.
Toby: The Secret Mine PS4 Review
Toby: The Secret Mine may look like another famous platformer, but it deserves to be recognised by its own merits. There's plenty of brain teasing going on as well as some tight platforming to keep you pushing towards the end. Don't bother getting invested in the non-verbal narrative, just enjoy the journey.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.
Chris has been writing about gaming news for far too long, and now he’s doing it even more. A true PlayStation know-it-all, Chris has owned just about every Sony console that ever existed. Trophies are like crack to this fella.